Could healthy soils hold the key to your good health? According to many experts in soil biology and biological farming, the answer is a resounding Yes.Daphne Miller, M.D., author of Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, recently penned an insightful article for YES Magazine1 on the importance of soil quality.“I spend my days in a sterile 8×10 room practicing family medicine and yet my mind is in the soil. This is because I’m discovering just how much this rich, dark substance influences the day-to-day health of my patients.I’m even beginning to wonder whether Hippocrates was wrong, or at least somewhat misguided, when he proclaimed, ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ Don’t get me wrong—food is important to our health. But it might be the soil where our food is grown, rather than the food itself, that offers us the real medicine,” she writes.
Key to Improved Nutrition
Dr. Miller cites research in her article that all point in the same direction—healthy “living” soils make for food with better nutrient content. And by “living,” I mean soils that are teeming with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and microscopic roundworms called nematodes.Far from being scourges to be avoided at all cost, microorganisms are an essential component of life. We now understand that it is the cooperationbetween these microorganisms, the soil’s biome, and the plants’ roots, called rhizosphere that is ultimately responsible for allowing the plant to absorb nutrients from the soil in which it’s grown.Insects and weeds also have their place in this circle of life. According to soil scientist Dr. Arden Andersen, insects are nature’s garbage collectors. Thanks to their specialized digestive systems, which differ from ours, they remove that which is not fit for us to eat—things we cannot digest.And weeds are nature’s way of evolving the soil—it’s an intermediate plant that mobilizes nutrients in order to alter the soil, making it more suitable for the next evolutionary level of plants to grow in it.Once you understand this natural cycle, it allows you to address food quality, weeds, insects, and plant disease at its point of origination, without ever resorting to chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetic engineering.As explained by Agri-Dynamics founder Jerry Brunetti in a recent interview, the root ball (rhizosphere) of the plant is the “gut” or intestinal tract of the plant. It houses microbes just like the human gut does, provided the soil system is healthy.Soil health then connects to everything up the food chain, from plant and insect health, all the way up to animal and human health. Health, therefore, truly begins in the soils in which our food is grown.
Plant ‘Gut’ Health Is as Critical as Human Gut Health
Old-timers like Weston Price, William Albrecht, Louis Bromfield, and Friend Sykes all found that there’s a strong correlation between having good mineralized soils with robust biological activity. According to the featured article:“Given this nutrient flow from soil microbes to us, how can we boost and diversify life in the soil? Studies consistently show that ecological farming consistently produces a greater microbial biomass and diversity than conventional farming.Ecological farming… includes many systems (biodynamic, regenerative, permaculture, full-cycle, etc.) that share core holistic tenets: protecting topsoil with cover crops and minimal plowing, rotating crops, conserving water, limiting the use of chemicals (synthetic or natural), and recycling all animal and vegetable waste back into the land.Much of this research supports what traditional farmers around the world have long known to be true: the more ecologically we farm, the more nutrients we harvest.”Researchers are increasingly starting to recognize gut microbiota as one of your most unappreciated “organs.”2 It may even be more appropriate to view your body as a “super organism” composed of symbiotic microorganisms. Probiotics are even becoming widely accepted and adopted in the conventional medical community to support health.In soil, we have a very similar process. The health of the plants, and those who eat those plants, all stand to benefit from the optimization of soil microbiology.Optimizing soil biology also strengthens plants against pest infestations without having to resort to chemical warfare. Research shows that there’s constant communication going on between plants via the rhizosphere (root ball). Plants “talk” to one another through aerial emissions—the volatile gasses they emit—and also through the mycelial networks in the soil.This is a major insight that deepens our understanding of the importance of nurturing and maintaining healthy soil microbiome. It also explains why you don’t really need synthetic chemicals to grow large amounts of food. On the contrary, the chemicals used in modern agriculture are killing the very foundation of health—the microbiome in the soil. In short, if we support and nurture the microbiome in soil, it in turn will provide us with good nutrition and optimal health through the food grown in it.
The ‘Farm Effect’
The featured article highlights another fascinating theory, which suggests that your immune cells might actually be part of a “backup” system to another long forgotten first line of defense, namely your gut microbiome, which is strengthened by—and in large part dependent on—the continuous exposure tosoil microorganisms.